‘Shopping local’ often gives consumers the best of several worlds – local produce, supporting local businesses, convenience, and a sense of ‘doing your bit’ for the community. But rarely do we stop to think about local businesses operating online. In a digital landscape made up of e-commerce supergiants, we sometimes forget that ‘mom and pop’ shops operate online too – and to an increasing extent since it’s now more convenient, affordable and secure to do so.
There are lots you can do with the modern storefront to bring local customers to your business, but as a small local business operating online, how can you compensate for the lack of foot traffic? As designers and entrepreneurs, we need to look at other ways of drawing in customers and giving our online brands a more local feel.
Use of imagery
Strategic use of local imagery on a website roots a business firmly to a geographical area. Whether you use them on hero banners, featured images, or to break up text, you can show your visitors exactly where you are from the get-go. Imagery is powerful and evocative – it makes us feel at home.
You can hire a photographer to create unique images for your website, or if that’s beyond budget, try searching for royalty-free local imagery online. Flickr has its own Creative Commons imagery you can choose from – just be sure to find images with a commercial license. Likewise, photo websites like Pexels and Unsplash can turn up hidden gems.
The below image of Chicago is free for personal and commercial use, with no attribution required.
Of course, you can also tweak local photography to bring it more in-line with your brand, using a color wash or typographic elements, for example. Graphics also make great additions, if you have access to a designer or royalty-free local iconography.
Is your business premises in a recognizable part of town? Get out there and take some photos! Be sure to also make the most of staff being out at local events – you could even import your company Instagram feed onto the website, so new imagery is featured all the time.
Make imagery a priority in your web design and where possible, try incorporating local features into design elements, wherever it feels natural.
Local keywords, local clients
SEO, of course, forms a big part of any new web build. It’s more important than ever for online businesses to ensure that their onsite and offsite SEO strategies are working for them. In particular, you want to be appearing in search results for local inquiries. Here are some tips:
- Ensure your locality is included in all page titles and meta descriptions, as well as peppering it naturally throughout body copy
- Focus on one targeted keyword, e.g. ‘New York’, and place that keyword close to the beginning of your page titles
- Use local structured data markup. This can be added to your website’s code, providing search engines with more information about your business to help you rank
- List your business, and the areas you serve, with online directories like Yelp, as this will often take the top spot in search engine rankings
What’s more, try to include case studies of your work with other local businesses or testimonials from happy local customers. This kind of social proof is just what website visitors need to convince them of your business’ good credentials.
Embrace local activities, news, and events
What better way to get local visibility, and to take that online than by actually being involved in the local community? Visible evidence on your website of your business and its staff being active in your local area helps to solidify your presence on the local scene, which you can then bring back to your website and social channels in the form of photos, content, and even videos.
If you’re feeling creative, why not put together a local infographic? Guides and graphics make great creative shareable assets. And while you’re at it, use social media to engage with local stories, to generate ideas for further content, and to take an active interest in local affairs. These are what make businesses part of the community – even when they operate online.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a directory all of its own and deserves its separate mention. As a local online business, you should look to claim your Google My Business page (and other search engine variations) as soon as possible. Why? Because it’s free and can give you some of the best online search exposure there is – especially if you’re lucky enough to appear Google’s coveted ‘top three.’
For example, here’s what you get if you type ‘bakery London’ into Google:
Claiming your Google My Business page is easy, just go to google.com/business. After going through the process, you will be sent a postcard containing a PIN to verify your business’ physical location. If you don’t have a physical location, you can choose to hide your address. This is all for Google to confirm that you’re a legitimate business.
Populate your listing as thoroughly as possible, so your potential visitors get plenty of information about who you are and what you do. Remember that you’ll be showing up alongside your direct competitors, so that’s worth bearing in mind.
Today’s shoppers are increasingly searching for local business information on their mobiles, and reports show that 76% of consumers who search from their smartphones visit a store within a day. So what if that store operates online? If you offer competitive prices and fast delivery, you may well be the better option.
Advertising with Google Maps is another powerful way to reach local customers, which ought not to be overlooked. Here’s a guide to reaching more customers with local search ads.
New brand? If you’re new enough not to have a finalized logo design yet, consider incorporating a local attribute. Be sure when you do this that you have no plans to expand to other regions – or make sure it’s something that could be altered easily if you do so.
Here are some great examples of logos with a local feel built into the design, whether through shape, color or typography.
Having fun with logo design can be a great way to show a brand’s personality and reinforce your geographical location at the same time.
Just like with a physical store, there are lots you can do to make an online store feel more local. The big difference is working with an online search to make sure you’re getting traffic – and the right kind of traffic – since no-one is about to stumble upon your business on the way to the shops. From getting on Google My Business to scoring local links, the more you can do to solidify your position as a local legend, the better.
About the Author:
Kayleigh Töyrä – Co-Founder & Creative Director: Kayleigh is a writer and digital marketer with a specialism in outreach. She is the co-founder of a Bristol-based SEO agency and is integral to the business’s operations and big-picture thinking. You’ll find Kayleigh at her desk with green tea, working on her latest campaigns.